Wednesday, 27 April 2022
Nithe i dtosach suíonna - Commencement Matters
I thank the Minister of State for coming here to discuss this very important topic. I raise the cost of renewing driver licences for people with disabilities. When I renew my licence, as a person without a disability, it costs €55 for ten years. Those with a disability must renew their licence every three years at a cost of €35 each time. That means that over the ten-year period they have to pay out three fees of €35 and must also get a medical certificate from their doctor. That can cost between €50 and €60 per visit. Let us say that at three times €50 that costs €150 in addition to €105. It is an exorbitant cost to someone with a disability. We must admit that sometimes people find it stressful when they are going to get their driver licence. They might be afraid that they do not have their documentation. However, the costs are very high.
There is another issue around the primary medical certificate. I know of someone with a disability who applied for the primary medical certificate last November. The person received a letter in mid-November to say that they were not eligible but that they could appeal it. It is now April yet no one has been appointed by the Department to the appeals board to assess these applications. Therefore, the person who is looking to get the primary medical certificate and the licence has the added cost and has to get taxis everywhere. That is a huge additional cost which such people might not have if there was a decision on the certificate. It is not fair that we put this added burden on people with a disability. There is a list of 23 conditions which a person who has any of them must apply for the three-year licence. It is a huge cost on hundreds of thousands of people. It is not fair and needs to be addressed.
The Minister for Transport thanks the Senator for raising this matter. Driving licences are usually issued for a ten-year period at a cost of €55. An applicant may be issued with a one-year or a three-year licence for medical reasons. The fee for a three-year licence is €35. There is no fee for a one-year licence.
To drive a vehicle, a driver must meet strict medical standards. Driver fitness standards are developed on foot of EU law and international best practice. The relevant Irish legislation is the Road Traffic (Licensing of Drivers) Regulations 2006, as amended.
On application or renewal of a driving licence, applicants are asked a range of questions about medical conditions or disabilities that may affect their ability to drive. The response to those questions will dictate whether there is a need for medical certification by a GP to grant, refuse or impose restrictions on a licence.
A clinical guidance document, Sláinte agus Tiomáint Medical Fitness to Drive Guidelines, is compiled by the Road Safety Authority, in conjunction with the National Office for Traffic Medicine. It provides guidelines for medical professionals to assist in their assessment of an individual applicant's fitness to drive a motor vehicle. The guidelines are reviewed and updated annually, with the 2022 edition launching this Thursday, 28 April. The information in these guidelines is intended to assist doctors and other healthcare professionals in advising their patients on fitness to drive, on the requirements for reporting to the National Driver Licence Service, and guidance on reviews of stability, progression or improvement in these conditions.
The fee charged by a general practitioner to complete a medical report for the purposes of applying for a driving licence is not a matter for the Department of Transport. The cost of the medical report is not covered under the medical card or GP visit card schemes. People can approach their local community welfare officer for assistance if they are struggling with the cost of obtaining their medical report.
I know the Minister of State is here to read out what was given to him but I must say that is very disappointing. It is the cost of the licence and the cost involved in getting it. I understand the cost to the doctor is not covered by the Department of Transport but the fact that a person having to get three licences over the nine-year period is a matter covered by the Department of Transport and is something that should be addressed by the Minister. I would like the Minister of State to take that back to the Minister for Transport. It is costing people €105 and that is within the control of the Minister for Transport. That needs to be addressed. It is not fair that someone with a disability has to pay €105 when I pay €55 to have the same licence over the same period.
To reiterate, there is no fee payable for a one-year driver licence for a person who must renew it annually due to a medical condition that must be assessed regularly. The fee for the three-year licence is €35. The community welfare system is available to anyone struggling with specific costs including those related to their transport needs. I very much take the Senator's point. The effective costs relate to the medical certificate. Perhaps it is one of the issues, of which there are many, that falls between the stools of two Departments. There may be a role for the Department of Health and the Department of Social Protection on this too. I will take the Senator's point back to the Minster, Deputy Ryan.